Books Read in 2005

About Grace by Anthony Doerr
David Winkler is obsessed with snow. Which considering he lives in Anchorage, Alaska, that may be a good thing, however sometimes he sees things before they happen -- a man carrying a hatbox will be hit by a bus for instance. He dreams his infant daughter will drown in a flood. To cope, he moves to a Caribbean island.
I was in a constant state of expectation but was never satisfied. Not much story here – and so much potential!

A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson
Anderson; real-life journalist and author of children’s books decided not to follow her husband when he was transferred to another state. Instead she took a year off from her marriage and spent it by the sea. She works in a fish market for extra money, finds a mentor, hires on as short-term cook for her nephew's film crew, and at the year's end, voila! she’s a new person.
This book reminded me Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea including shell metaphors. However, Lindbergh has only a brief vacation at the beach and Anderson spends an entire year in relative solitude. Her journey of self-discovery is inspiring -- not your ordinary mid-life crisis book!

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros
This Mexican-American family travels back and forth between the two countries -- in a caravan filled with children, parents and grandparents. Lala Reyes’ grandmother is descended from a family of shawl makers, and the most beautiful one she’s ever made has been given to Lala.
This book is so noisy! I have no other way to describe the family gatherings -- way too much going on for me. Some cool historical references to the history of rebozo, or shawl makers.

Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck
Martha Beck shares her program to help you start the journey to your own ideal life. Thought-provoking exercises, play activities help you explore inner thoughts on true happiness. Are you ready to set wildly improbable goals (WIGs) in order to find your personal North Star?
There are a couple self-help books that I routinely give as gifts, and actually use the advice. This is one of them. Beck is smart and funny and her great stories and humor is so refreshing in a self-help book.

He Drowns She in the Sea by Shani Mootoo
This tale of lifelong love, focuses on the barriers of social class. Harry St. George has loved Rose Sangha from the time they were children, when his mother did the laundry for the Sangha family. But Harry is poor and forced time and again, to confront the caste system. He eventually leaves to start a new life in British Columbia. When circumstances bring Rose and her husband to Canada, Rose and Harry reconnect – but not without consequences.
On the fence about this one. Not bad, not great.

March by Geraldine Brooks
This is the imagined Civil War experiences of Mr. March -- the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. A cleric by trade, March becomes a Union chaplain and is ultimately assigned to be a teacher on a cotton plantation that employs freed slaves.
I’m not a huge fan of the “pre-quill” especially written by someone other than the original author, Brook’s research skills pulls this one off. I enjoyed the book and the story she created is entirely believable.

Saving Alice by David Lewis
Stephen’s goal was to distance himself from his loser dad and family in South Dakota as soon as possible. His efforts paid off -- an ivy-league university, great job offer, and Alice. Then he loses Alice.
I have a difficult time with stories that seem to spiral down-down-down with no good end in sight. I want to think people are smarter than that, immune to temptations and poor choices, but that’s not the case here. The message that it's never too late for miracles saved this one.

Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts
This is a tale of small town DeClare, Oklahoma, and the mystery that has haunted its residents for years. In 1972 Nicky Jack Harjo disappeared when he was a baby, his pajama bottoms found on the banks of Willow Creek. 30 years later, Nicky shows up in DeClare. What’s up with that?
This book had me from the first paragraph. It’s got the usual components: love, mystery, scandal, soul-searching, plus Letts’ is a gifted writer -- one that I enjoy immensely.

The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
Betta Nolan is a 55 year old successful children's book author who sells her Boston townhouse after her husband John dies of cancer and sets out to see what happens next. She ends up in the Midwest and discovers the joy in perfect things in a perfect place, shared with interesting friends.
Even though this book sounds ho-hum it’s not. Nolan has spunk and my heart was moved by how she goes through the changes in her life and forges a new one. And everyone’s idea of ‘perfect’ is different.

The Ice Chorus by Sarah Stonich
Liselle is a filmmaker who leaves her husband and ends up in Ireland where she starts to document the lives of the small town's residents. It turns out she’s is trying to clear her head after a love affair with Charlie, an artist she met in Mexico – oh, and some childhood issues. Charlie, in the meantime, decides to display the nudes he’s painted of her -- in her hometown!
I expected excellence from this incredible story-line, but it ended up being just words on a page. Liselle was not crafted finely enough to get the sympathy Stonich hoped for, but ended up looking like a spoiled girl.

The Poet of Tolstoy Park by Sonny Brewer
How do you choose to spend the rest of your life after you’re told you only months to live? Real-life Henry Stuart, nearly 70 and wracked with illness, leaves Idaho and travels to Alabama, where he builds a house brick by brick –and receives more than 1,000 visitors.
Before the first chapter was finished I had fallen under the spell of Henry Stuart, who, in 1925 found out that tuberculosis would take his life. Brewer’s incredible storytelling shows us how Stuart got ahead of his own parting, writing a primer of sorts for anyone dealing with mortality – something we all must face. I loved this book.

Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman
Gelman was once the married mother of two grown children, living in the suburbs and writing children’s books. After her marriage disintegrated she decides to see the world, and at age 48 takes flight. It’s nearly 17 years later and she’s still without a permanent address. This is her true story as she moves through the world connecting to people and cultures.
Consider, for a moment, the huge leap of faith it would take to leave behind everything familiar, have no itinerary, and no reservations for a place to lay your head. This is a great story made all the better because it’s real.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseni
Set in Kabul, during the Taliban's rise to power. Amir, the son of a wealthy businessman, and Hassan, the son of Amir's household servant, are great friends. They play together, get in trouble together, and fly kites together-- Amir flying the kite, and Hassan running them down as they fall. One day, Amir betrays Hassan, and their lives will never be the same.
The descriptions of Afghanistan before and after the war are haunting, but the real story is what devastation a “friend” can do. It’s a beautifully written book – one that will break your heart. And mend it.

The Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards
Dr. David Henry has the perfect wife, the perfect life and nearly the perfect family. His son -- born first, is healthy, but the girl twin has Down’s syndrome. He does what he feels is right considering he grew up with a chronically ill sister. But was telling his wife her daughter died at birth the right thing to do?
This story spans 25 years and does a decent job of it, but make no mistake…no matter how well intended, your bad judgment will come back to haunt you. I’m on the fence – it wasn’t a great book but it wasn’t all that bad either. I think it would make a fabulous movie!

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon
Barcelona, 1945. An antique book dealer invites his son, Daniel, into the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library for books forgotten by the world. The book Daniel selects leads him on a quest to find other books by the same author and opens a door to murder, magic and forgotten love.
Some books can be difficult to read and this is a prime example. That said -- it’s well worth the time you have to flip back and forth to figure out what the heck is going on. Read it in winter, by the fire ‘cause it’s not a quick beach read.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauus
Sixty years ago Leo Gursky met a girl named Alma, fell in love and wrote a book. Time passed, Leo fled Poland after WWII and became “invisible” in New York. Unknown to Leo, the book survived and took on a life of its own – changing lives, crossing oceans, and finally finding its way back to Leo.
This love story is fiction, with a healthy does of historical facts and it is an extraordinary book. Take your time --you need to savor it like gourmet fare, not a fast-food burger.

The Summer We Got Saved by Pat Cunningham Devoto
Tab (white) and Maudie (black) were childhood friends. Tab doesn’t know it, but she’s descended from Klan founders. Maudie, the daughter of a neighbor's maid, contracts polio and is sent away for treatment. The girls lose touch. Fast forward to the civil rights movement and the summer that they re-connect and things change forever.
Decent storyline, but not a super book. Don’t get me wrong it’s not bad, just not great. So, if for instance you only read like two books a year just don’t choose this one, choose a super delicious one.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
Christopher is a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, whose very organized world falls apart when he finds his neighbors dog dead -- stuck with a garden fork. He decides to investigate the murder which ultimately brings him face to face with some unexpected truths.
One of the best books I’ve read this year -- funny, sad, and I love it!

The Summer Guest by Justin Cronin
Harry Wainwright, a rich patron for the past 30 years is once again a guest at a fishing camp in Maine. The only difference is this will be his last trip before he dies. Harry had many memories of owner Joe Crosby, his wife, Lucy, and their daughter Kate.
I read this book on a sunny beach, beside a beautiful Idaho lake. It was a great read and the history of three generations of men – men who braved the battlefields of Italy to a Vietnam draft dodger was awesome! Best beach book of the year.

The Wabi-Sabi House by Robyn Griggs Lawrence
Wabi-sabi is the combination of the Japanese wabi, meaning humble, and sabi, which connotes beauty in the natural progression of time. The book teaches us the Japanese art of imperfect beauty – basically to appreciate the simple, unaffected beauty of things as they are.
The Wabi-Sabi House encourages creating a home that is a retreat from the hectic world, and recognizing beauty in ordinary things. There are simple solutions for clearing clutter and blocking noise. Now who couldn’t use some of that?

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
Alessandra is the daughter of a wealthy cloth merchant and wants only to paint, but finds herself in an arranged marriage to 48-year-old Cristoforo. Thankfully he’s a gent well-versed in art and literature, and promises to give her all the freedom she wants. Enter the tormented young artist commissioned to paint her family's chapel.
This is historical fiction about art, love, and betrayal in 15th-century Florence – can it get any better than that??

The Seventh Unicorn by Kelly Jones
Outside Lyon, France, is a convent slated to become a hotel, and the aging nuns are to be shipped off to a nursing home. But might the ancient books and art fetch enough at auction to save the nuns' way of life? American-born Alex Pellier, a curator at Paris's Cluny Museum, is called in to look over the collection and she discovers two drawings that are oddly similar to the set of six medieval unicorn tapestries in the Cluny. She tracks down her old art school flame, Jake Bowman to help her find the mysterious seventh tapestry.
Historical fiction, romantic setting and intriguing mystery – my goodness how could the story go wrong? It doesn't. It’s lovely.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
At a small private college in Vermont, a small tight-knit group of wealthy students majoring in Greek adopt a new student -- Richard Papen. Richard has never fit in before and despite his blue-collar background the wealthy classics group embraces him. Is it genuine kindness or do they have other ideas?
It’s the eighties dude. Every character in the book is stoned and/or recklessly drunk on top of that. No one dies as a result of this, (a miracle) and not terribly intellectual behavior, but I couldn’t put the book down wondering what was going to happen to Richard and his reckless gang.

The Next Big Thing by Johanna Edwards
Kat Larson decides to become a contestant on a new reality show From Fat to Fabulous- not only because she needs to loose a few pounds, but she'd finally be able to arrange a face to face with online sweetie Nick, who thinks she's a size four.
Edwards is a real-live journalist, and the producer of a nationally syndicated radio program "Book Talk." The Next Big Thing is her first novel, and I give her a solid “C” for the effort.

The Drowning Tree
8 simple Rules For Dating My Daughter
This Life She's Chosen
Vanishing Act
How to Be Lost
The Mermaid Chair
The Wild Girl
The Bright Forever
Peter and the Starcatcher
Love in the Driest Season
Not Tonight Honey
Love Me
Out of Season
A Million Pieces
The Pact
The Life All Around Me
Marley and Me
The Year of Magical Thinking
Baker Towers
The Good Man
The Innocent
Raising Adam
The Best Christmas Pagent Ever
Broken For You
Grand Tales From English History
Imagined London
Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie
My Sisters Keeper
Running With Scissors
Hide and Seek
Saving Fish From Drowning

1 comment:

Jake Putnam said...

Ive always suspected that the times Ive called you, you were reading on the sly. The phone calls all seemed one sided and a lot of uh-s, yes, and no's...No wonder you can never talk or even write an email longer than 10 words, youre reading!